Published: Sunday 31 August 1997

Cosmonauts aboard the damaged space station Mir, are cleaning up the ship and are preparing to return home after the most troubled mission in the space station's 11-year history. They are waiting for the arrival of the new crew said spokesperson Vera Medvedkova from the Russian mission control outside Moscow.

The Mir, a collection of diverse modules arrayed around a core station, was hit by a cargo vehicle overloaded with garbage on June 25, damaging its solar energy system and forcing the crew to seal off the speaker module where scientific experiments were being performed ( Down To Earth , Vol 6, No 6). Space officials decided to delay repairing the speaker after commander Vasily Tsibliyev, developed heart trouble. The crew plunged into another crisis by accidentally unplugging the vital computer, causing the station to lose its orientation for more than a day.Medvedkova said that the doctors at the mission control had prescribed sedatives and medicines to stabilise Tsibliyev's heart beat. His condition has improved since then. She said that Tsibliyev will now be given medical support with vitamins and sedatives.

Tsibliyev has celebrated a year of cumulative time in space, including his present mission and the one in 1993-94. Among the impending tasks facing the crew is loading old food containers with garbage aboard the progress ship. NASA spokesperson Kathleen Maliga said that Tsibliyev and flight engineer Alexander Lazutkin will use it to return to Earth on August 14. She said that they are using a CO2 scrubber they repaired over the weekend, to remove carbon dioxide from air.

British-born NASA physicist Michael Foale, who has worked on several scientific experiments in recent days, will stay on board until a US shuttle arrives on September 20.

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